Day 12 : Castrojeriz to Fromista

Steve : Last night was very hot. The Castrojeriz albergue is one big room and it didn’t cool down until well after midnight. Not too much snorting and I reckon I’ve got the pilgrim way of being able to sleep through anything pretty much sussed.

Bags loaded and out by 5:30am.

Castrojeriz albergue at 5:30am

Moon over rio Odrilla

Castrojeriz lies in a valley between two high plains. The hope was that we’d reach the other plain on the west side of the valley by sunrise. We made it with a few minutes to spare.

To the summit for the sunrise
Sun through turbines

Take H’s advice…

We walked the high plain…

Atop Alto de Mostalares

…and then descended into Itero de la Vega.

Another cafe stop at 8:30.

The landscape was changing. The fields were larger and flatter and stretched to the horizon.

It was getting very hot. We crossed the Tierra de Campos, through Boadilla del Camino…

Storks on the roof of the church in Boadillo del Camino

…and walked into the scorching town of Fromista around 1pm.

Fromista is rail yards and canals and long low buildings holding who knows what. The albergue was just off the main square. We arrived, did the pilgrim thing of shower, clothes wash and sleep for an hour or so. We Scots cannot handle this heat.

The 25km had taken their toll. Our feet and legs were fine but the heat had exhausted us. We sat around. H and I fiddled about with tech and backed up the thousand or so pictures that I’d take so far. Dinner was in a cafe off a rather tired looking strip: tagliatelle with mushrooms times three. As we were sitting outside a considerable wind blew in from the east. We were grateful for the cooling effect but in the end we had to retreat into the cafe. We watched a rather good basketball game on the bar TV.

We sloped off to bed at around 9pm…

Day 12 : Stats

Castrojeriz to Fromista

  • Steps 38,188
  • Distance covered, according to Brierley
    • 24.9 km direct, 26.1 km actual walking
    • 426.7 km to go
  • Other Fitbit stats
    • 34.37 km walked (based on 0.9m stride length)
    • 341 ‘active’ minutes
    • 4,823 cals burned

1/3 of the way

Hamish: we are now roughly one third of the way through our trip having walked a mighty 271.9km! We only this morning walked into our third and final district before entering Galicia (don’t ask me the name as I have forgotten and the wifi is being unkind).

(Edit: the district in question is in fact ‘Palencia’ after having finally connected to the Albergue wifi.)

We have roughly 426k to go and we are all slowly getting better at early starts and early evenings. I admit that I am by far the slowest to learn about early starts… This morning was the second that we managed to get out and walking before the sun rose and the first that we had a rather spectacular view as the sun crested the horizon! (A sight I admit I haven’t seen for a long while).

The tiny Spanish towns are a sight to behold and every one leaves me wanting to buy up a derelict house and move in immediately! I fear I may be romanticising them somewhat. Nonethetheles, I would not be surprised if this were to happen…

Yesterday, as we wandered around the beautiful town of Castrojeriz, we came across a Silencio, something quite surreal and very beautiful. It was an empty house, filled with some beautiful photos and decorated with such care and attention. Each room was laid out precisely and the garden was well tended sporting a tranquil pond with running water, a single congregation, unlit church which had been excavated into the mountain and some unshaded seats in the garden proper for those who draw strength from direct sunlight. This silencio was based around the simple rule “don’t say anything”. After many days of constant company and many many ‘hola‘ and ‘buen camino‘, it was such a peaceful change to hear no voices and sit, tranquil and cool, listening to the sound of running water.

All in all the first third of the trip has been a great success! We have been rained on, nearly lost our bag a couple of times, walked in the blistering heat and eaten more tortilla than I ever thought possible. We are still standing, and somehow smiling however, so we shall carry on and see what the next 420km brings us!

Snoring – a Cunning Plan

Steve : Way back in Pamplona we were in an albergue when an unusual snoring-related event happened.

The albergue had some 20 beds, so we expected at least 4 snorers. I think we had three and they were giving it the full treatment.

But, but… glory of glories.  The three of them were (a) snoring all at the same pitch and (b) had snorts of the same duration.  So rather than the quasi-random snorting you get with the solo snorer this trio were synchronising nicely.  One would start and just as his snort came to an end another would pitch in.  When he had finished the third started, ending just in time for the first to kick in again.

Result? We had a constant background roar.  Think of an old air-conditioning unit in a dodgy American motel.  I can sleep through that!  Easy-peasy!

So, snorers of the world.  A plea.  If you must snore in shared dormitories than please plan your trips such that groups of you, of similar pitch, always travel together and snore in symphony.  A grateful audience would surely agree….

Internal playlist #2

Steve : We were up the big hill beyond Hornillos this morning for the sunrise, so, of course, Sheryl Crow started up in my brain’s music player.

Jen and I have been discussing ideal playlists on a pilgrimage theme – however you’d care to define that.

Top of our list is the great Paul Simon song, “America”:

Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America

There will be more…

Ironically, given we’re on a pilgrimage where you’re supposed to be paying attention, on some long days, like today, when the sun is hot, you need distractions from the relentlessness of the trail.  For the last few days I’ve walked the meseta listening to ‘Cabin Pressure‘, from BBC Radio 4, on my Sansa MP3 player.  If you’ve never heard it, I urge you to give it a go.  Extremely funny. Unfortunately I finished it last night in bed, whilst trying to block out the snore-fest.

So, today’s trek across the wide open spaces was accompanied by a BBC ‘Book at Bedtime’ recording of Robert Harris’s novel ‘The Ghost‘, from, I think, 2007 or so.  This novel, and the Roman Polanski film version, are favourites of mine when travelling.  I’m not entirely sure why, but they seem to transport me better than most.  I remember listening to the BBC recording about ten times whilst my brother and I took shifts driving a minibus full of kids to a camp in Finland.

So, in the 34 degree heat of the Spanish midday I strolled into Fromista with the book ending about half a km from the albergue.


The PACE trial

Muriel:  (nicknamed the PACE study) and initially touted as a way to produce ‘recovery’ for ME/CFS patients has come under increased scrutiny since its publication in 2011.

It was originally announced with considerable media hype, eg

But ME patients found it very hard to believe (given their own experience of exercise) and started asking questions

Just a few days ago the ME Association (UK) has arranged with SAGE Publishers to give Open Access to the various scholarly articles questioning/defending the PACE trial

Unfortunately, the ‘biopsychosocial model’ used in the PACE trial has become entrenched in the UK Welfare system making it very difficult for people disabled by this illness to receive the benefits they need to survive.

While much of the rest of the world has now moved toward disregarding this study for the methodologically poor quality which pervades it, here (in the UK) there seems to be a profound unwillingness on the part of both some sections of the research community and government/welfare communities to acknowledge that it was a deeply flawed study which should be retracted.  An apology to all those hurt by CBT/GET ‘treatment’ would also be useful.  A determined effort to remove these kinds of warped assumptions about poorly understood conditions, like ME/CFS, from the welfare system would also be  helpful.  Further, a complete revision of the advice given to GPs would be in order.

The ME community has been spoken of by the PACE researchers as an angry group of patients.  No wonder, when they’ve been the subject of such research/medical/welfare malpractices!

Huge thanks go to the many ME patients and research activists who put huge efforts into getting the data for this trial opened to scrutiny and then re-analysed and exposed for what it is.